Leo Tolstoy’s Short Story: ‘My Dream’

The renowned Russian storyteller shows how forgiveness gives new life to the one who forgives.
Leo Tolstoy’s Short Story: ‘My Dream’
A father gains wisdom through forgiveness. (4 PM productions/Shutterstock)

In a world where wrongdoing thrives, the great writer Leo Tolstoy contends that forgiveness and mercy should prevail over bad behavior, for these qualities enable beauty and peace to shine forth with brilliance and hope.

In his short story “My Dream,” Tolstoy contemplates the healing power of forgiveness and mercy through the relationship between a father, Prince Michael Ivanovich, and his daughter, Lisochka, his beloved Lisa. When Lisa is found with her illegitimate child, Prince Michael cuts her off and refuses to see or forgive her.

A Hard Heart

Peter and Alexandra, Prince Michael’s brother and sister-in-law, visit him. They come to discuss Lisa, who had gone missing for a month but was recently found. In their discovery, they found Lisa with her illegitimate child.

Prince Michael indignantly says: “As a daughter, she no longer exists for me.” And though he admits that he will provide her with ample money, Prince Michael says that he will not see her as she has disgraced him.

That evening, Alexandra goes to his rooms to continue the discussion of Lisa. Though he tries to avoid the conversation, Alexandra presses him further by asking if he has Lisa’s address. When he responds that he does, she immediately urges him to visit his daughter: “Just see how she lives. ... She is so miserable, but she is such a dear.” In response, Prince Michael stands, signaling her to leave him.

Painful Reflections

After his sister-in-law leaves, Prince Michael paces his room as memories of Lisa flood his mind. He remembers her as an impulsive, loving little girl who wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. He remembers when she became the belle of the ball, sought by so many. She was his favorite. She was his pride and joy. And now, what has happened?

More memories return. He remembers when she lost the first bloom of youth and refused to marry. Then he remembers her fateful visit to her aunt. He remembers the letter she sent, in which “she wrote that she could not return home; that she was a miserable, abandoned woman, asking only to be forgiven and forgotten.” Again, anger comes, and he declares: “I have no longer a daughter.”

The next day, as he walks through the public gardens and contemplates the wrongs done to him, he suddenly desires to see Lisa. He calls a cab and soon arrives at Lisa’s home. Inside, he hears a baby crying and sees the poor state in which Lisa lives. As he turns to leave, he hears his daughter coming up the stairs.

Through this story, Tolstoy shows that an unforgiving, unmerciful heart does more wrong than the wrong inflicted. A hard heart prevents our souls from growing wiser, whereas forgiveness and mercy help us mature and blossom after hardship.

Tolstoy’s story illuminates what Mark Twain says: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Forgiveness and mercy allow beauty to bloom from any wrong done.

Let us practice forgiveness and mercy toward others and ourselves. Through forgiveness and mercy, we overcome the wrongs in our life and bloom with grace, beauty, and virtue.

Would you like to see other kinds of arts and culture articles? Please email us your story ideas or feedback at [email protected]
Kate Vidimos is a 2020 graduate from the liberal arts college at the University of Dallas, where she received her bachelor’s degree in English. She plans on pursuing all forms of storytelling (specifically film) and is currently working on finishing and illustrating a children’s book.
Related Topics